Thursday, July 27, 2006

History Repeats

Twenty years ago, in 1986, slumlords around Vancouver evicted tenants to be able to lure unsuspecting international guests to their fleabag motels for Expo 86.

The fact that I was beginning university in Vancouver that year is an issue I will blog on another day, as my 20-year high school reunion creeps up on a couple of weeks. (Gods, give me strength!)

But, as the saying goes, those who ignore history are destined to repeat it...or in this case, those who learn from history that they will only get their hands slapped for being underhanded and cruel, thus reaping great financial benefit, will repeat it.

From the Pivot Legal Society:

Press Release – For Immediate Release, July 26, 2006

Province moves to evict 13 more low-income people

Vancouver –Vancouver Coastal Health has issued an order to tenants of the Powell Rooms lodging house at 556 Powell Street stating that the building would be closed today, Wednesday, July 26, 2006 at 5:00 p.m due to health reasons. Coastal Health has made no provision for relocating the 13 people that live at the Powell Rooms, including one terminally ill individual.

The order, issued a week ago by Dr. F.J. Blatherwick of Vancouver Coastal Health, lists four reasons for the hotel closure: (1) lack of hot water, (2) pest infestations, (3) non-functioning washrooms and (4) garbage accumulating in a City of Vancouver lane.

David Eby, a lawyer with Pivot Legal Society, learned of the order on Monday and visited the lodging house on Tuesday with a team of volunteer trades-people and community members. The repairs to the hot water tank were completed within minutes, and all the toilets were found to be in working order. A removal service has been contracted to remove garbage from the back lane. No evidence was found of mice, cockroaches or bedbugs, although a pest control service has also been engaged to conduct a full inspection.

“Its fairly shocking that the Coastal Health Authority, responsible for ensuring the health and well-being of the community, would rather force people onto the street than ensure some very basic repairs are done,” said Eby. “It would have been a simple matter for Dr. Blatherwick to order the steps we’ve taken today to be done, and any health hazards be cleaned up.”

The City of Vancouver also has the power under City bylaws to order repairs and maintenance to Downtown Eastside lodging houses and hotels. However, although the Powell Rooms building was inspected regularly by the City, there have been no City Standards of Maintenance Orders for the lodging house since November of 2001.

“It boils down to community volunteers doing the job of Coastal Health and the City because, for some reason, they would rather close hotels than ensure that they are livable,” said Eby. “If the government won’t do its job and protect low-income people from losing their homes, what will happen to the Olympic commitment to prevent homelessness?”

The pending closure of the Powell Rooms (25 units) and the ongoing closure of the Lucky Lodge (48 units total) by the City and the Province follows the dramatic closures of the Burns Block hotel (18 units) and the Pender Hotel (36 units) in March, 2006. These rooms, together with rooms lost due to rent increases brings the total of low-income units lost or under imminent threat to 375 for the first seven months of 2006.


Further Comment: David Eby (778) 865-7997 – Pivot Legal Society

Dr. F.J. Blatherwick (604)675-3804 – Vancouver Coastal Health


The 2010 Inner-City Inclusivity Commitment to protect low-income housing and ensure that people are not made homeless was part of the Vancouver Bid Book, the formal application to host the Olympic Games. To read the Inclusivity Commitment Statement, visit: .

About Pivot Legal Society
Pivot’s mandate is to take a strategic approach to social change, using the law to address the root causes that undermine the quality of life of those most on the margins. We believe that everyone, regardless of income, benefits from a healthy and inclusive community where values such opportunity, respect and equality are strongly rooted in the law.

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